CHINESE nationals returning to local private colleges were not made to undergo any medical test upon arrival nor quarantined before being allowed to go back to their campuses.
However, upon arrival at the KL International Airport, they were made to fill up a medical declaration form.
“I was allowed to enter the country as I appeared to be healthy,” said Chinese student Liu Zhi Wen, 21, who came back here last weekend after a two-week visit to his hometown of Changzhou in Jiangsu Province.
“I am safe because I did not go to Guangzhou and Beijing where there are reported SARS cases,” said the computer studies student who shares a house with several college mates.
Liu is among 11,058 students from China enrolled in private higher educational institutions in the country.
In an interview, Liu said he was not afraid of getting infected when he was back in China. “I went out with friends, watched TV, stayed home, and spent time with my mother.”
As an only child, he is looking forward to returning home in October to see his mother whom he misses, especially after the death of his father two years ago.
“I won't go back if I am not allowed to. I'll be sad but I will just have to resort to phone calls to keep in touch with my mother,” said Liu.
On whether his college mates tried to avoid him, Liu said they did not “stay away” or query about his health. His friend Cai Lu Wei, 22, spent two weeks in Shanghai and returned on March 17.
“I will be going back again in July no matter what the ruling is. My parents are healthy and I never get sick so I am not afraid,” said Cai
The Government has, meanwhile, temporarily halted the issuance of visas to students from countries affected by SARS to curb the spread of the disease.
Announcing this on Wednesday, Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad also strongly advised students against travelling to SARS-affected countries.
Private colleges said the majority of foreign students have decided to remain in Malaysia during the coming semester break to avoid the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
“We started an aggressive campaign last week to inform students about SARS. We are glad that most of the foreign students understand the seriousness of the matter and have decided to stay behind for their holidays even if it means cancelling their tickets,” Nilai College vice-president Gan Eng Hong said.
Nevertheless, the college has briefed them on symptoms to look out for and advised those intent on returning to China for the short break to remain in their country if they show any symptoms. All returning students will be quarantined as any infection could spread easily in a hostel environment.
Nilai College, which has over 600 Chinese students, will take a two-week holiday break in a fortnight's time.
Another college said it was impossible to stop the students from going back home to China as many had already been issued a single entry visa. But it was also trying its best to stop any new Chinese students from coming into Malaysia and advised them to postpone their studies to the next semester.
“We are very concerned that no student from a SARS-affected country endangers the rest of our students because it could mean the closure of the entire campus temporarily,'' said a spokesman for the college which has about 200 Chinese students.
Systematic Education Group International special projects director Dr Chow Yong Neng said it was uncommon for Chinese students to return home for short breaks and that he did not expect any difference. “Most students only return home after they graduate,” he said.
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